The Feminist Student Union’s annual production of “The Vagina Monologues” next weekend does more than provide Valentine’s Day entertainment filled with comedic rants and more-serious scenes – it’s also a way to educate the community about sexual assault and consent.
The monologues, most of which focus on violence against women, are one of the growing number of relatable ways that student groups are using to open up conversations about tricky topics like sexual health and sexual assault.
“I always got the impression that sex is supposed to be scary for women, whereas it’s a given for men. In that context, consent gets muddled because what is consent if you’re scared?” said Michela Masson, the group’s co-chair.
The Feminist Student Union is also trying to create a panel discussion on street harassment – a prevalent but sometimes overlooked form of sexual assault. In these and other cases, Masson said, the idea of consent gets hazy.
And solution isn’t just more self-defense courses, advocates say.
“That has to come from just more education about what rape is, what sexual assault is, what consent is,” Masson said. “I don’t think that self-defense, while it can be helpful to many people, is the end-all-be-all to ending sexual assault.”
Groups like Voices for Choices and Students Against Sexual Assault also work together on promoting sexual health awareness on campus.
With new events this year like “Cookies and Consent”, the sexual assault prevention group has tried to change the ambiguity of “consent” in a campus-friendly way. The group handed out more than 500 slips of paper and cookies explaining and promoting consent to students in Thurston Hall and in Kogan Plaza.
“So many of those students took the time to read the slips of paper and to talk with us about consent, if even for a moment,” Matthew Scott, the group’s president, said.
Recently, the Feminist Student Union co-sponsored the “60% Campaign” with Students Against Sexual Assault to highlight the fact that 60 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses occur in residence halls.
Paris Bienert, president of Voices for Choices, said that an important factor in approaching topics like consent and sexual health is creating an open conversation.
“I think the biggest challenge for the work that we’re trying to do is the fact that sex is awkward and talking about sex is awkward,” Bienert said.